Hey guys! Just wanted to impart what I've learned through becoming an impromptu tutor over the past month.
My secret to doing well in A&P is flashcards, but they are only useful if you do them in a certain way. I firmly believe that simply reading over 10 pages of highlighted notes is a complete waste. The best way to pack tons of information in during a very short time span is to chop it up into tiny (but clever) pieces. My method (and the one I try to impart on classmates) is this:
1. Go chronologically from the beginning to the end of each chapter and keep the flash cards in order. That way the information builds on each other.
2. Your flashcards CANNOT rely on word association. This is the big mistake most people make. Every flashcard shouldn't simply have a word on the front of it. It should be phrased in the form of a question, and designed to really trick/challenge you. You don't need to memorize, you need to be able to explain thoroughly.
3. Don't just write "What is cardiac muscle?" and call it a day. Try: How is cardiac muscle different from smooth and skeletal muscle? How is it alike? (Answer: Cardiac muscle is branched and contains intercalatated discs. It is striated like skeletal muscle, but is not voluntary/somatic. It is involuntary like smooth muscle, and also has auto-rhythmic qualities (like the smooth muscle in the stomach/gut). Once you get familiar with your instructor's tests, you may even be able to anticipate questions, especially if he is the "Everything is true EXCEPT" or "select all that apply" type.
4. Once you go through them a few times and (only after) all the information is familiar, take them five at a time and memorize them. Once you have five down, mix in five more and repeat until the process is done.
5. IF YOU CAN'T TEACH IT, YOU DON'T KNOW IT. Simple as that. When I tutor other A&P students and they tell me "Oh hey, I read over this big blob of notes and I totally know it," it is always revealed that they don't understand it as well as they think they do. Familiarity is NOT knowing, and familiarity won't get you an A. If you can't see one word and be able to explain/expound upon it to someone else without hesitation, you don't know it. TEACH IT TO SOMEONE ELSE, AND YOU WILL DO GREAT. After I make my flashcards, I don't have to study. I just go over them with other students, and explaining the processes reinforces everything. No one to tutor? Teach it to your dog or cat. Grab a webcam and do your best impression of your professor.
6. Make filthy, r-rated examples and acronyms: T-tubes are the link between excitation and muscle contraction because they invaginate (lol, invaginate) the sarcolemma, allowing the action potential to move down into the sarcoplasmic reticulum (insert clever but wholly inappropriate references to how lady parts also accomplish this during sex). Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times my classmates throw a raised eyebrow and a giggle my way when we are faced with a lab practical question that one of those dirty references has touched on. Is it mature? Nope, but you'll remember.
6. Get out of the house. Seriously, I'm in a three-way relationship with Paneras and the campus library, and we're very happy together. It insulates me against the distractions I know will be waiting at home.
7. A&P is not as in depth as nursing school. If you can't learn to do it and do it well, you're going to struggle, and quite possible fail even if you get into a program.
Making the flashcards with thorough detail and carefully phrased questions takes a long time (3-4 hours), but overall, it's worth it, because you will learn the material better and in a much shorter time. It actually cuts DOWN on study time, because you can digest a ton of tiny-bite sized pieces of information rather than get lost looking at huge pages of notes. I'm nearly halfway through an eight credit API/APII one-semester course, and I am able to work 50 hours a week as an LPN and also take three other classes (two of which are honors, because hey, I'll sleep when I'm dead).